Roanoke College seniors hold their own graduation ceremony earlier this month

Rolled up newspapers replaced diplomas


SALEM, Va. – Many graduation ceremonies have been canceled or postponed but Roanoke College seniors found a unique way to celebrate earlier this month before they had to leave campus.

This was all done before the governor ordered social distancing and no groups of 10 or more people.

College diplomas were rolled up newspapers. They had a few caps and gowns, dining services gave them leftover food and they wrote “RC 2020” in icing.

A student holding her "diploma"
A student holding her "diploma" (Roanoke College student)

The ceremony idea started as Peyton Holahan and her friends wanted to celebrate their time in Salem and didn’t know when they would be together again.

The 34-minute ceremony was live-streamed on Instagram. They gathered in the lobby of Beamer Hall, decorated with red balloons and streamers. Junior Tara Hrdlick acted as President Maxey, even donning an untied bowtie for effect. Olivia Kitt, the former Student Government Association president, gave a speech. As Pomp and Circumstance played from a portable speaker, Hrdlick handed out the “diplomas,” which were pages of USA Today editions, available for free from Commons.

“It wasn’t celebrating our academic four years at Roanoke, but definitely our friendships at Roanoke the past four years and showing how much we can come together in times of strife and confusing times where nobody really knows what the future holds," said Holahan.

After the “ceremony” they went and ate dinner together to talk about their years at the college.

Roanoke College says graduation isn’t cancelled but it is postponed. It was scheduled for May 2. More than 1,700 people signed this petition asking for a new date.

In his announcement postponing graduation, President Maxey specifically mentioned that he’d seen the petition. He also said he and his cabinet would find a way to get the seniors back together.

“I would love nothing more than to shake hands with and pass a diploma to every one of this year’s graduating seniors in the future,” Maxey wrote in the announcement.

Diplomas were rolled up newspapers
Diplomas were rolled up newspapers (Roanoke College students)

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